2009’s “Missing in Action” Horror Checklist

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Seven titles we were supposed to see this year, but didn’t

Only two wide-release theatrical genre films remain in 2009 (New Moon, Transylmania) and hungry horror fans – bellies full from a busy fall season – will have to scavenge the DVD shelves for titles until January crawls around to give birth to more big screen fare. It should be noted, however, that this year is going to close out leaving a number of completed, yet unreleased, movies in the dust. Victims of indecision, creative tinkering or just plain quality, the following seven films were supposed to reach us this year, but didn’t make the cut.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

THE STORY Amber Heard (Zombieland, The Informers) is fantastic as the object of every adolescent boy’s obsession. As Mandy Lane, she ventures out to a remote farm house for a weekend of partying with pals until a hoodie-cloaked miscreant with a backpack full of killing tools begins to pick the teen pack off one by one.

WHAT HAPPENED? The directorial debut of Jonathan Levine, Mandy Lane hit the film festival circuit, garnering a number of rave reviews (including one here at Shock). Dimension Films swooped in, acquiring the film. After a long spell, Bob and Harvey Weinstein prepped a limited release in July of 2007 with the haste of two kids fumbling took take off their clothes in the back seat of their car on prom night. Poster art and a trailer were created. The press was invited to advance screenings. Then, at the last minute, Mandy Lane was yanked from the schedule. Talk about giving fans a case of blue balls.

WHERE IS IT NOW? Mandy Lane traded hands when it did the walk of shame from Dimension to Senator Entertainment in ’07. The company’s plan was to put it on 1,000 screens. Meanwhile, director Levine got The Wackness in the can – it was released in ’08. At the end of that year, during the American Film Market, Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions Group announced it took the domestic release rights to the films on Senator’s slate. Shortly after, Senator manned up and decided it was going to give Mandy Lane some play in July of this year. But like the Weinsteins, they pulled it with no reason why. It’s possible the ailing economy took its toll on Senator. They were forced to close their New York branch and Mandy Lane has not been heard about since forcing multi-region DVD player owners to look elsewhere for this effective and surprisingly good film. Overseas, Mandy Lane premiered in England and is now available on DVD.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes

THE STORY Set in Poughkeepsie, New York, the film is an examination of one maniac’s killing spree through his home videos, interviews with police officials and the only victim still alive. Imagine if Michael Rooker’s Henry had a knack for video cameras and he invited you over for a personal movie marathon.

WHAT HAPPENED? Shortly after its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Dowdle brothers – Drew and John – became “filmmakers to watch” on the horror scene. Poughkeepsie was acquired by MGM and the pair shored up their next directing gig – Quarantine, an American remake of the Spanish hit Rec. The job was to play to their strengths by utilizing the hand-held, first person camera format. Around late 2007, MGM began to rev up their public awareness for Poughkeepsie with a trailer and poster. Similar to Mandy Lane, however, the studio got cold feet and postponed its February 2008 release. The studio then shifted it to the fourth quarter of that year, and later 2009, but it has become apparent that MGM does not know what to do with their property.

WHERE IS IT NOW? We reached out to the Dowdle brothers to find out just that. At the time of this writing, they have not had time to comment as they’re both in Canada at work Devil, an upcoming horror picture from Universal that M. Night Shyamalan is producing. 2009 would have been an opportune time to introduce audiences to the film if MGM had taken a cue from Paramount’s Paranormal Activity publicity campaign. There doesn’t appear to be any hope on the horizon. MGM announced this week it is going on the auction block placing a number of films in jeopardy, including Poughkeepsie.

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

THE STORY The flesh-eating virus of Eli Roth’s 2003 film continues on its corrosive path, out of the woods this time and into a high school prom where students and teachers alike are infected. Madcap John Waters-style mayhem ensues.

WHAT HAPPENED? Under the direction of Ti West, Cabin Fever 2 began production in early 2007. And by the end of that year, it fell off the radar. 2008 yielded rumors of tinkering, reshoots and release dates which carried into ’09 until the film made its premiere during a pre-Fantastic Fest screening in Austin, Texas. There Lionsgate invited audiences and press to check out the film. That’s when the real history of its sticky production was revealed. Read about it in our two-part interview here and here.

WHERE IS IT NOW? Although Lionsgate has not made an official announcement, it was revealed in Austin that the home video division of the studio is giving the sequel its DVD debut in February 2010. Only then will fans know if it was worth the wait.

The New Daughter

THE STORY Kevin Costner is a father of two moving into a new house after a messy divorce. Shortly after settling down, his daughter – played by Pan’s Labyrinth‘s Ivana Baquero – begins acting peculiar. Ol’ poppa Costner suspects it has something to do with a mysterious mound at the edge of the nearby woods. Luiso Berdejo, one of the writers responsible for Rec, makes his English language directorial debut based on a 2005 short story by John Connelly. Samantha Mathis (‘Salem’s Lot) also stars. Rumor has it, there is a creature of sorts in the film.

What gives? Daughter was first announced in 2007 by Gold Circle Films, the company behind White Noise, Slither and, most recently, The Fourth Kind. Cameras rolled in 2008 and besides a few photos that leaked onto the web we’ve heard little about it.

So now what? The IMDB has the film listed as being in “post-production.” If so, that’s one hell of a post schedule Berdejo was granted if principle photography wrapped in early 2008! We’ll take what the IMDB says with a grain of salt and presume Gold Circle and distributor New Line/Warner Bros. are biding their time, awaiting an opportune release date. Many of Gold Circle’s films tend to linger after completion. Another theory: It may well be that Warner Bros. didn’t want to hit audiences with a double-barrel blast of “strange daughter” films in a single year (Orphan opened over the summer). Hopefully, we won’t have to wait that much longer before this Daughter is revealed.

Hybrid

THE STORY Neal Marshall Stevens (Thirteen Ghosts) takes vehicular terror in a new direction with what could best be described as H.R. Giger meets Christine. When members of a Chicago police department (Shannon Beckner and Resident Evil‘s Oded Fehr) impound a car they get more than they bargained for. Said “hell on wheels” is actually an organic being, a creature that has survived history transforming into various predators. For the modern age, it takes the guise of hot cars. Unfortunately, this thing doesn’t like being trapped in the department’s garage and it wants out. Crazy, right? Well here’s the proof this film exists – watch a promo trailer.

WHAT GIVES? Director Eric Valette shot the film in 2008 after the disastrous One Missed Called, perhaps in an effort to wash the bad taste out of his mouth. (Seriously, I’ll take a Giger-inspired pissed off Wacky Races car over Ed Burns chasing down a cell phone-hopping ghost any day.) At the beginning of this year, Voltage Pictures premiered a preview via their website.

So now what? Voltage is currently looking for a distributor. To be honest, theatrical sounds unlikely.

Night of the Demons

THE STORY In this update of Kevin Tenney’s ’80s cult film, a Halloween party set in a New Orleans mansion goes awry for the hostess and her guests when a demonic force is unleashed. They have to unlock the secrets of the mansion’s past and survive the night if they want to defeat this malevolent threat.

WHAT GIVES? Simple. Seven Arts Pictures enlisted Adam Gierasch to direct and co-write the script with Jace Anderson (they brought us Autopsy). Apropos to the material, Demons lensed in New Orleans (here’s our set report) in October of 2008. Seven Arts had a release marked for October of this year; instead, the remake was completed in time for London’s FrightFest and the distributor opted to push its release to 2010, giving them ample room for promotion.

SO NOW WHAT? Seven Arts is reportedly prepping a February 2010 bow. In how many theaters is unknown. Stiff competition arrives February 12 with The Wolfman and Overture’s The Crazies.

Case 39

THE STORY Case worker Renée Zellweger rescues a little girl (Silent Hill‘s Jodelle Ferland) from an abusive family environment and learns there’s much more to the situation than she was led to believe.

WHAT GIVES? Paramount’s supernatural thriller from Christian Alvart (the German director behind Antibodies and Pandorum) has bounced around release dates for over a year. Originally, it was supposed to premiere in August of 2008. Then it got an unkind push to April of 2009, allowing Paramount to perform some test screenings. Those who attended tell us it’s a dud that can’t be fixed regardless of its supporting cast like Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane.

SO NOW WHAT? It wasn’t until September that the studio decidedly shrugged it shoulders and announced a January 1, 2010 release. You know, prime dumping ground.

Source: Ryan Rotten, Managing Editor